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Archive for July, 2006

don’t blow it out the tailpipe just yet

car exhaust bnw.jpgIt’s official: Spare the Fare Days were a colossal waste of money.

That’s what it would seem from some of the recent reviews of the $13.6 million program to provide the Bay Area with free transit on smoggy weather days.

Photo from

Judging from one account, buying up old cars would be a far more cost-effective way to fight smog. More effective, that is, than jamming  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Monday, July 31st, 2006
Under: Environment, ferries, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 4 Comments »

train wreck, need karma

old train wreck.jpg

Photo from

I should have known better than to call attention to the failing state of California’s intercity passenger railroad system and then attempt to ride a train to work today.

I rode my bicycle to the station, heard the announcement that the Capitol Corridor Amtrak was going to be 20 minutes past its normal 7:55 departure, and decided to go get breakfast. When I came back, my eyes played a trick on me.

I looked up at the message board and saw that the departure had changed to 8:26. Only I saw what I wanted to see, and not the actual predicted time of 9:26 a.m. I have to credit the Capitol Corridor with reporting how bad the delay would be, because it made it very easy to get back on the bike and pedal back home to get into the Civic and start driving 67 miles to work.

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, July 28th, 2006
Under: Capitol Corridor (Amtrak), Funding, rail | 1 Comment »

coasting into Amtrak’s twilight

MAP-LG_coaststarlight.gifIt’s official. High-speed rail is not the same thing as Amtrak’s Coast Starlight line.

Here’s a train service that is scheduled, I mean scheduled, to take twice as long to get to LA from the Bay Area as you can drive.

But now we have a grim pronouncement from the Train Riders Association of California that passengers can expect not only an average speed of 40 mph along the line, but they are also routinely experiencing 5- to 11 1/2-hour delays.

I’ve read that the ride is quite a scenic treat, running (or rather, plodding) through the  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 27th, 2006
Under: high-speed rail, rail | 1 Comment »

power play across the Bay

sign_overhead_lines.gifIn one short lesson, I learned this week why it has taken so long to build the new Bay Bridge.

It seemed like such a small thing, a new cable to bring extra power to future development on Treasure Island.

Then it seemed an outrage: Metropolitan Transportation Commission members, sitting with their Bay Area Toll Authority hats on, were going to use bridge toll money to pay for this cable.

Adding to the outrage was that a representative of Pacific Gas & Electric showed up, dramatically offered to put in the cable and held up a check for $3.4 million that Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 26th, 2006
Under: Bay Bridge, Funding, Retrofitting, tolls | No Comments »

transcendental bike path

MeHiWheeler1.jpgOakland born and Hayward bred, Martin Krieg has survived clinical death after a 1978 auto accident and recovered enough to ride a bicycle across the United States a year and a half later.

Today he was trying to give something back to the society and community that he credits with helping him get back on his feet.

Now bicyling from Berkeley to Oakland may not seem so spectacular, but when you consider that it was one of the final legs of a Boson-to-San Francisco relay ride, it seems a little more impressive.

Where I really have to tip my hat, however, is knowing that he rode through Sacramento on Sunday in 113-degree heat to receive a proclamation in support of what has become  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 25th, 2006
Under: Bicycling | No Comments »

Spare the Water Days

s4ferry - Nick Lammers.jpg

Photo by Nick Lammers – STAFF

Perhaps two of the lessons to be learned from free transit on Spare the Air Days are that ferry service is too expensive and that it could really take off if it was expanded, as prominent Bay Area business leaders would like to see.

That should lend some heft to the ferry proposals contained in the nascent regional transportation plan approved Thursday by the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission.

The plan would cost  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Friday, July 21st, 2006
Under: ferries, Funding | 5 Comments »

notes from an imperfect utopia

fast moving train - Josh Birnbaum - x26spar2.jpgTo start with, free transit is good, smog or no smog.

At least that’s what nearly everyone I’ve talked about it believes.
Secondly, free things are often taken for granted.


Photo by Josh Birnbaum – STAFF  

Think of the panhandler on the street who sneers when your donation doesn’t meet with his expectations.
With those points established it’s time for the kvetching.
Complaining, that is, about Spare the Air Days’ unprecedented run of free transit, six days, starting with June 23 and ending tomorrow, unless the Metropolitan Transportation Commission and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District can scrape 

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Thursday, July 20th, 2006
Under: Environment, Funding, Safety | 7 Comments »

more terror money for BART?


Anytime I have an excuse to put up a picture of a blown-up transit vehicle (hey, it’s cautionary, not morbid)…

AP Photo / Press Trust of India India train bombing-AP-Press Trust of India.jpg

U.S. Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-Walnut Creek) got some folks at BART all excited today (as if Spare the Air 5 on Thursday isn’t enough) with the news that the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee had passed the Public Transportation Security Assistance Act, which would grant $3.4 billion over three years to transit systems based on risk, rather than whose Congressional district the system happens to serve.

“Recent reports that al-Qaeda operatives had planned to attack  Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Wednesday, July 19th, 2006
Under: BART, Funding, Security | No Comments »

oh, Canada! you’ve let yourself go.

Ahh, Canada. It’s where all right-thinking (er, make that left-thinking) Americans would be living if there were no Bay Area.

I’ve not spent much time there, but I remember going to visit the Canadian side of Niagara Falls, and, as if on cue, I witnessed a well-dressed woman with a little dog being told by a police officer that she’d better clean up after her pet, or else. It could have been in the script of “Canadian Bacon.”

But alas, my stereotype has blown a speaker.

torontosmog.jpg  photo from

I just read that the Toronto Transit Commission is waiting for a “cold day in hell” before it will offer free rides to mitigate the summer’s 20th smog day “even as American cities embrace the idea.”

American cities? Read “The Bay Area’ in this Toronto Star story:

Public transit in most American cities, including San Francisco, receive much more Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
Under: Environment, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 1 Comment »

paradise regained

 Photo by Josh Birnbaum – STAFF

BART crowd - Josh Birnbaum - x26spar3.jpgAs if by some miracle, the great cogs of the bureaucracy that is the Metropolitan Transportation Commission managed to turn fast enough to get three more days of free transit funded for controlling smog.

And when I caught my free BART ride on the way home tonight, I could tell. Never have I seen the Richmond train so packed at 6:50 p.m. And while there were the usual miscreants and out-of-school teen-agers enjoying free rides, it was clear that the bulk of these new riders were also on their way home from work.

BART’s hand counts this morning led them to estimate that 26,000 more people than usual rode the subway – and 8-percent increase that brought the estimated total riders for the day to 349,000, not including Read the rest of this entry »

Posted on Tuesday, July 18th, 2006
Under: BART, Funding, Transit vs. driving | 2 Comments »